Having a good rest is one of the three great pillars of your health, together with a good nutrition and having an active life (doing exercises regularly). So yes, if you do everything correctly but you don’t sleep well you are lacking more than 30% of the balance needed for being healthy.
Why sleeping is important
There is no physiological process in any animal in the world that doesn’t need the effect of sleep. In fact humans and animals can survive weeks and months without food, but not without sleep.
What are the circadian rhythms
Our body is programmed to work on a 24 hours cycle of light and darkness, cycle that is regulated with the use of hormones. And yes, the sleep is also part of this cycle. Circadian rhythms are mostly regulated by light, but also other factors like temperature, play an important role in it.
Light to regulate the sleep
The two main components that allow our body to know “what time it is and when we should sleep” through light are the Vitamin D (synthesized when we are exposed to sunlight) and Melatonin (hormone produced when there’s no more sunlight). Phone screens and artificial light in general disrupt these two sensors causing changes in our circadians rhythms. You can read here more about this disruption.
Temperature to regulate sleep
The temperature descent is another sign that our body uses to know when is time to sleep: since millions of years ago nights are colder than days. That is why it is better to sleep with the central heating off at night and with a room temperature slightly lower than encourage our body to rest.
How to sleep better
There are few things we can do for having better sleep rhythms:
- Do not wake up with noisy sounds. Better than conventional noisy alarm clocks you can use a less noisy sound, sleeping with the window open or through a light alarm clock that simulates the sunrise.
- Expose yourself to natural sunlight. Sunlight is the best way to regulate our circadian rhythm.
- Exercise. The best time to exercise is at some point during the morning, but you can do it at anytime as long as it is not close to bedtime. Physical exercise reaches cortisol and body temperature and none of those are good for a good sleep.
- Sleep in a room that is slightly colder than the rest of the house.
The benefits of a good sleep
Sleep is crucial, but here are some facts about sleep (or the lack of it) to take into account.
- One of the compounds that our body removes from our brain during sleep is amyloid plaque generated because of its work. Amyloid plaque is tightly associated with the development of Alzheimer.
- We learn more and better. There are many studies that demonstrate that at a cognitive level, sleep helps us remember what we have learned. During sleep many unnecessary synaptic connections are eliminated, avoiding saturating our brain.
- We eat less. With lack of sleep we elevate some hormones that control the appetite: leptine and greline. We will eat more and more impulsively.
- Better glucose metabolism. Related with the last point, with good sleep the glucose/insulin mechanism works better.
- We have better metabolic sensitivity. We have better levels of all the hormones in general, including testosterone, cortisol (the hormone of stress) and growth hormone. These three hormones play a key role on fat accumulation and athletic performance.
As well, sleep is crucial for reducing body fat (that can lead to a better cellulite reduction), for a healthier intestinal microbiota and for improving the benefits of following a good nutrition guideline.